Figures released today reveal smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in every local government area in the State, claiming the lives of almost 4000 Victorians annually.
The data, prepared by The Cancer Council Victoria covering the period 2002-2005, details lives lost to smoking in every local government area throughout Victoria showing smoking-caused deaths outstrip deaths caused by illicit drugs, alcohol, and road deaths.
On average out of every 1000 deaths in Victoria:
- 119 are caused by smoking
- 24 are caused by alcohol
- 12 are caused by road deaths
- 3 are caused by other drugs, including heroin.
The data includes deaths caused by lung cancer and other smoking-caused cancers, heart disease, stroke, chronic bronchitis and emphysema.
Victoria's peak health bodies including The Cancer Council Victoria, the Heart Foundation (Victoria), Quit Victoria, the Australian Medical Association (Victoria), Asthma Victoria, Diabetes Australia (Victoria), the National Stroke Foundation, SIDS and Kids Victoria, the Centre for Adolescent Health, Optometrists Association Victoria, Australian Dental Association (Victorian Branch) and the Nossal Institute for Global Health today expressed their concerns about the devastating toll of smoking in Victorian communities
In a letter sent to all Victorian parliamentarians, the coalition of health groups urged MPs to consider the impact of smoking in their own communities and take further steps to reduce the overwhelming harms of tobacco, including offering support for a complete ban on the display of cigarette packets at retail outlets.
Epidemiologist at The Cancer Council of Victoria's Cancer Epidemiology Centre, Dr Dallas English, said the data shows smoking consistently remains the leading cause of preventable death in every local government area and provides a unique snapshot into the human tragedy associated of tobacco.
"Each number in the data released today represents a Victorian who has died, on average, 13 years before their time, leaving behind family and friends. While we have seen a lot of progress in the recent years in relation to tobacco control, these figures show there is still more to be done."
Quit Victoria's Executive Director, Ms Fiona Sharkie, said smoking deaths exceed those caused by illicit drugs, alcohol, and road deaths so every conceivable effort must be made to prevent children from taking up the deadly and addictive habit and to help those who do smoke to quit.
"Smoking is our biggest killer, yet the sad fact remains that each of the 11 deaths a day caused by smoking in Victoria could have been prevented."
"Half of long-term smokers will end up dying of a smoking-caused disease, but the good news is that it's never too late to quit and start feeling the immediate health benefits of being smokefree. Unfortunately, however, we are still dealing with a tobacco industry adept at making it hard for smokers to quit."
Victorian President of the Australian Medical Association, Dr Doug Travis, also expressed concern about the number of lives lost to smoking and called for more to be done to prevent children from taking up the habit.
"Every day, medical practitioners across the state are at the coalface of smoking-caused disease, dealing with the health effects of tobacco. Tobacco kills almost 4000 Victorians every year, and the fact is that most of these deaths will occur in people who started smoking before the age of 18 years."
"The State Government has proposed a range of reforms to protect young people from tobacco, and this data is a timely reminder of why the Government must stand strong in the face of pressure from the tobacco industry and their front groups who wish to block initiatives such as a complete ban on tobacco displays in shops.
"With so many Victorians losing the battle with smoking-caused disease every year there is simply no excuse to cave into the tobacco industry's expectations rather than continuing to protect the health of future generations."
The Heart Foundation Victoria's Executive Director, Kathy Bell, particularly encouraged the Government, who have flagged a ban on the display of cigarettes as a key proposal, to follow the lead of the New South Wales and enact a complete and comprehensive ban of cigarettes displays within a twelve-month period.
"Getting cigarettes out of sight in shops helps dismantle the idea that cigarette smoking is normal behaviour, and will reduce the rate of young people taking up smoking."
"By reducing the uptake of smoking in children we will reduce the immense toll of smoking in Victoria in future years, but to move forward in that process we must get cigarettes completely out off sight within one year so they can be out of mind sooner rather than later," said Ms Bell.
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